Entering History

The door to the poem opens in, and a couple enter,
set down their luggage, and stand, backs to the door,
silhouetted against the light, taking in the room.

They step through French doors in the far wall
onto a balcony cantilevered over ramparts, and the vast
impastoed Umbrian kingdom swoops away

and down. They have climbed this world in first
and second gear, half the afternoon, past 12th century belfries
and 500-year-old cypresses, up the very blacktop

switchbacking through the view. Dirt roads lead off it,
wandering Etruscan boundaries to invisible purpose.
An ancient farm truck, no bigger than a pencil eraser,

and the only sign of life and the 21st century,  crawls,
without a sound, along one of them. On distant hills,
the honey and terra cotta of Assisi, Spello, Spoleto,

hover in the haze like cities of God fallen to earth,
for the habitation of humans the size of seeds
on white-haired dandelions. She leans her head on his shoulder. 

He kisses her. They've already shrunk half an inch
since they began their lives together. They turn,
reenter the room, cross back and forth in profile, unpacking. 

He's acquired a stomach, and his hair has gone white.
She pulls off her clothes. There is a scar on her breast,
one in her armpit; three more run like roads

across and down her belly. A bloom of spider veins
tattoos her calf. They're getting old, but not so old
we shouldn't close the door on their nap.                                              

Tonight they'll have dinner downstairs.
Tomorrow they'll drive off into the view. For now,
they'll awaken in this minor city of God

entwined in each other's arms. We'll hear them talking,
sotto voce on the other side of the poem,
dusk erasing their bodies.

© Mary Stewart Hammond, originally published in the Southern Review 2008.